Dave Hill, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, originally worshipped at the altar of the rock gods and became a consummate guitar player. He made a name for himself in the New York, Los Angeles and British comedy club scenes and writes with the proficiency of a professional journalist for several newspapers and magazines that even the illiterate would recognize. His reporting and journalism work have earned him a regular contributing spot on the public radio powerhouse “This American Life.” He also has one of the funniest Twitter accounts on the web that will make you forget what a huge waste of time Twitter can be in the hands of the average, humorless bastard.
Dave Hill would like you to know that he knows Dick Cavett and Malcolm Gladwell, both of whom provided quotes for his new book “Tasteful Nudes…and Other Misguided Attempts at Personal Growth and Validation” due out May 22nd from St. Martin’s Press.
Hill spoke to Comedyrants about how he combined his talents for comedy and rock to become an awesome physical force of enlightenment and entertainment, the dress code of the “Dave Hill style” and how he developed a rabid obsession for Norwegian Black Metal.
Where do you find your wardrobe?
Where do I find my wardrobe? Ideally on the floor of a sexy, sexy lady’s apartment. Ha- that is a joke I just made up in my spare time. Anyway, I buy a lot of my clothes in London when I’m over there doing shows. People just dress better over there in general, so it’s easier to find good stuff. I like stuff from Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood, and Merc the best. I can’t tell if I sound like a total penis so far in this interview. I think it’s hard to not sound like a penis when talking about clothes if you’re a dude. But I will continue anyway. Another thing with shopping for clothes is that I almost never pay more than 50% of retail. I try to wait for sales. I usually only pay full price for stuff like underwear (I wear the cheap kind because I figure by the time anyone sees it, it’s too late for them to turn back). Occasionally I’ll buy a nice pair of shoes or jeans because, if they are well made, they will last a long time and be totally worth it, by which I mean it will lead to tons and tons of sex and the occasional free drink or brunch invite.
How would you describe the Dave Hill style and is there a better name for it than “the Dave Hill style”?
I would describe the Dave Hill style as “slightly too tight and preferably velvet” or “a guy from Cleveland just trying to dress well enough to distract from his face.” I like my clothes but I usually think they would look much better on someone else. I have heard people say I’m a bit of dandy but I don’t think I’m nearly dainty enough for that. You can’t be from Cleveland and truly be a dandy. It’s just not possible. I get a polar fleece for Christmas pretty much every year, which keeps me grounded. Sometimes I’ll put it on and walk around the neighborhood so I can feel what it’s like to be a normal person.
How does someone become so connected into the alternative NYC comedy scene as you have?
I can’t tell if I’m all that well connected or not. I do have Todd Barry’s phone number, so I feel pretty good about that. Generally speaking, though, I think the comedy world is a lot like high school- you run into everyone at some point or another and hopefully no one will end up stuffing you into a locker, pushing you down a flight of stairs, or throwing something at your head. Most comedians are really nice, so a lot of times I will go and get a soup or salad with them.
What would you say is the highlight of your career besides this interview?
This interview is definitely up there, but I’d say any time I get to do stuff with Dick Cavett, one of my absolute heroes, is always a highlight. I’ve had him on my Dave Hill Explosion show a few times, he’s done my podcast, and we just shot a video together. I even went to his house once, which almost caused a seizure (in me, I mean. He seemed totally fine). I can’t believe I know him. Every time I talk to him I’m thinking “Holy shit- Dick Cavett!” and just trying to hold it together the whole time.
Another highlight was performing at Sing Sing prison for 300 inmates. They were all maximum security violent felons – murderers, rapists, stuff like that. I guess it was kind of like a comedy version of Outward Bound or something. I was terrified going into but I ended up having a really nice time in the end. I can’t wait to go back. Prison is so underrated.
What would you say is the low point of your career besides this interview?
As for low points of my career, depending on my mood or how much I’ve had to drink or whatever, almost any day could seem like a low point depending on how you look at it. Show business is a cruel mistress. I feel lucky to be able to do what I do for a living, but I am usually in a mild panic about everything. About 10% of the time though, I am operating from a place of extreme, largely unwarranted confidence and that’s when I manage to get stuff done. The rest of the time I just run errands and stuff. Also, I’ve been told I have slightly larger than normal external male genitalia. I realize you didn’t ask that question, but I wasn’t sure where else in this interview I should mention that.
How insecure do you consider yourself to be and if so, why live in New York, aka the second most shallow city in the history of the universe?
I think everyone in comedy is pretty insecure or they wouldn’t have gone into comedy in the first place. As for my own mental state, I am wildly insecure sometimes and confident-bordering-on-delusional other times. As I’ve learned in therapy, however, the key is to recognize both of those things as something you should probably blame on your parents. New York is a great place to live though, because no matter what your mental state, you can always find someone who will make you feel totally not alone.
Did you always aspire to combine your music with your comedy or at what point did you decide to combine the two? What makes it work?
No. I actually kept them pretty separate for a while. I started as a musician and am a huge rock fan, so I was never really into “musical comedy” because I felt like it compromised the majesty of rock. Or something like that. But gradually, I started combining the two. I’m not as much into writing silly songs as I just like talking and shredding on the guitar. Also, the guitar is a nice kind of security blanket on stage that allows me to go back to being an introvert for a few seconds whenever I feel like it. The guitar conveniently covers the nuts, too, so that’s another bonus.
What do you know about Norwegian Black Metal that the rest of America hasn’t caught on to yet?
As a lover of both Satan and heavy metal, Norwegian Black Metal has been a favorite of mine for a long time now. It’s crossed over into pop culture in the last few years, mostly because of all the crazy Norwegian Black Metal band photos, but most Americans are totally missing out on all that borderline unlistenable music that goes along with it. That said, there are some great Norwegian Black Metal bands. I like Darkthrone, Mayhem, Satyricon, and Emperor a lot. I love Bathory, too, but they’re Swedish, so I’m not sure if that counts. They had the best band photos though if you ask me. Also, a lot of Norwegian Black Metal musicians live out in the woods, which is also cool.
You have some impressive quips on your book. Malcolm Gladwell called you his “idol.” Is that difficult to live up to? Who would your dream book quote be from and what would he/she say?
No. I see Malcolm a lot because we live in the same neighborhood. I am happy to be a positive role model for him. As far as dream quotes, I can’t believe it but I actually got most of the ones I wanted. The back of my book has nice quotes from Dick Cavett, Malcolm Gladwell, Chris Elliott, Ira Glass, John Hodgman, Janeane Garofalo, Sandra Bernhard, and Andy Richter- all people I admire a shitload. I really wanted to get one from Salman Rushdie but I couldn’t make it happen. Fuckin‘ Rushdie. I guess him or Stephen Hawking would have really rounded things out nicely. They could say whatever they want as long as they promised to throw in a little profanity. A quote from Morrissey would be great too- maybe just some of his lyrics. I guess I could just go ahead and do that, couldn’t I?
Here’s an obvious question for you: what do women want and how can men give it to them?
I know women were into mojitos for a while, but now I’m not really sure. I think it’s important to be kind and respectful to women at all times. Also, don’t forget to work the nipples.
Danny Gallagher is a freelance writer, humorist and reporter and a regular contributor to TruTV’s “Dumb as a Blog“, Playboy’s “The Smoking Jacket“, MTV’s Clutch and the Shadowbox Comedy Theater of Columbus. His humor and feature writing has also appeared in Aol’s TVSquad.com and Asylum.com, Spike.com, Esquire Magazine, Cracked.com, Mental Floss Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Tribune’s “Redeye,” The Austin American-Statesmen and The Center for the Easily Amused. He doesn’t shower much.